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Part I: Tibet-An Inseparable Part of China

2009-03-25

China is a unified country made up of 56 ethnic groups, Tibetan included. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Tibet and the Tang Dynasty had, through marriage between royal families and meetings leading to alliances, cemented political and kinship ties of unity and political friendship and formed close political, economic and cultural relations. In 1271, when the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) was founded, Tibet officially became an administrative region directly under the jurisdiction of the Central Government. In the ensuing centuries, although China experienced the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republic of China (1912-1949), Tibet remained under the effective rule of the Central Government.

 

 

 

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Picture shows Norbu Lingka mural Princess Wencheng Entering Tibet.

Early in the 7th century, the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was founded in the Central Plains. It was a powerful and politically united regime that initially established order over the shifting and chaotic situation that had prevailed for more than 300 years in the Central Plains. At the same time, the Tubo leader Songtsan Gambo brought together tribes on the Tibet Plateau, established the Tubo Kingdom covering a large part of what later became known as Tibet.

In 640, Tubo King Songtsan Gambo sent his "prime minister" Gar Tongtsan to the Tang court in Chang'an, capital of the Tang Dynasty, requesting a member of the imperial family be given to him in marriage. Gar Tongtsan brought 5,000 tales of gold and hundreds of jewels and other precious stones as gifts to the Tang emperor. Princess Wencheng, a member of Emperor Taizong's family, was sent to Tubo. She lived in Tubo for more than 40 years. During the period, outstanding culture and advanced production technology of the Tang Dynasty were brought to Tubo, a boon for Tubo's economic and cultural development.

When Princess Wencheng told Songtsan Gambo the importance of a written language for Tubo, the Tubo King organized people to create 30 Tibetan scripts and work out grammars for the making of sentences. This put an end to the history in which Tubo had no written language. The Han Chinese works Princess Wencheng brought to Tubo were therefore translated into Tibetan, including those on poems, farming, history, medicine, calendaring and Buddhism. Tubo people gradually mastered the advanced technology of the Central Plains, such as cereals milling, cotton spinning and weaving, pottery-making, paper-making, and winery. As Princess Wencheng worshipped Buddhism, Songtsan Gambo supported the spread of Buddhism in Tubo and had the Jokhang Monastery built for this purpose. This exerted great influence on the spiritual life of the Tibetans.

The statues of Princess Wencheng and Songtsan Gambo are still worshipped in the Potala Palace, and the site of their bridal chamber still visited. The Tibetans also sing songs to laud the role Princess Wencheng played to Tibet's economic and cultural development.

 

 

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Picture shows the History of the Yuan Dynasty, which records the Central Government's establishment of the Xuanzheng Council.

In 1271, Kublai Khan of the Mongols set Yuan as the name of his dynasty, with Dbus-Gtsang (present-day central and west Tibet, and its western area) and Mdo-khams as part of the Yuan Dynasty. Tibet was officially put under the rule of the Central Government. When the Yuan unified the whole of China, the Yuan court adopted a series of measures for the effective governing of Tibet in the light of its actual situation:

---Establishing the Zongzhi Council (renamed Xuanzheng Council in 1288) in charge of Buddhist affairs in the entire nation as well as local military and administrative affairs in Tibet and other regions. The Xuanzheng Council was in charge of officials and held generally by the prime minister, with its deputy chief being monk recommended by the Imperial Tutor.

---Conducting household surveys, setting up post stations, collecting taxes, stationing troops, appointing officials, and issuing Yuan criminal law and calendaring in Tibet.

---Appointing Tibetan monk and lay high officials at the regional and central levels. Administrative organs in Dbus-Gtsang and Mdo-khams were set up, and officials were appointed or dismissed or awarded at the order of the Central Government.

---Deciding on the administrative division in Tibet. The Yuan court set up three separate Pacification Commissioners in Tibet, who were put directly under the Xuanzheng Council. This finds its way into the Tibetan history books, and this administrative division in Tibet becomes the foundation for the ensuing political powers to make administrative division in Tibet.

 


 

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Picture shows History of the Ming Dynasty on the administrative and military organs of Tibet.

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) which replaced the Yuan Dynasty to rule China basically followed the Yuan system in rule over Tibet. It had organs to take charge of the military and administrative affairs of the Lhasa and Xigaze areas, Qamdo and Ngari regions. Zongboin (equivalent to county magistrate) and officials at higher levels were all appointed by the Ming court.

 


 

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Picture shows token of the High Commissioners.

In 1644, the Qing (1644-1911) court decided to move its capital to Beijing for ensuing unification of the whole of China. Following the historical precedence, the Qing court exercised jurisdiction over Tibet. In 1652, the 5th Dalai Lama of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism was summoned to Beijing for an audience with Qing Emperor Shunzhi and received honorific title "Dalai Lama" from the Qing court in the following year. Later on, the 5th Panchen Erdeni also received honorific title "Panchen Erdeni" from Qing Emperor Kangxi. The honorific titles of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni and their political and religious role were officially confirmed. From then on, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni of the ensuing generations have to be confirmed and given the honorific title from the Central Government and this has become a historical precedence.

On the basis of summing up the experience of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties in rule over Tibet, the Qing court made substantial adjustment in the light of the actual situation of Tibet, such as appointing the High Commissioners to take charge of the work in Tibet; readjusting the political and administrative management system of Tibet; giving honorific titles to the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni and introducing the system of drawing a lot from the golden urn to confirm their soul boys; deciding that the decision-making power with regard to Tibet's foreign affairs and border defense belongs to the Central Government; demarcating Tibet's border with Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan; stipulating the areas ruled and power enjoyed by the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni respectively; and stipulating the area directly under the High Commissioners. The High Commissioners supervised the affairs in Tibet on behalf of the Central Government, and they enjoyed an official position the same as the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni.

 


 

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Picture shows the Ordnance for the Effective Governing of Tibet

In 1793 or the 58th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong, the Qing court issued the Ordnance which contained clear stipulations on the religious affairs, administration, finance, military affairs and foreign affairs. Of its 29 articles, the first article stated that the soul boy of the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Erdeni has to be determined through the use of the method of drawing a lot from the golden urn.

 


 

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Picture shows the golden urn. In 1792 or the 57th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong, the Qing emperor had two golden urns made for the lot-drawing purpose. They were respectively sent to the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa and the Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing. Each of them stands 34 cm high, and is complete with five ivory lots.

In history, various sects of Tibetan Buddhism all had their own succession methods to reinforce their positions and defend their vested political and religious rights and interests. This Living Buddha reincarnation system is unique to Tibetan Buddhism.

According to historical records in Chinese and Tibetan, during the Qing Dynasty, apart from the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni reincarnation systems, there were also others. During the period of Qing Emperor Qianlong, 148 Hutogtu Living Buddhas were registered with and confirmed by the Department in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs; and the number increased to 160 toward the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). At the end of the period of Emperor Qianlong, the Qing Government further reformed the administrative management system of Tibet by strengthening management over grand lamas. A series of methods were introduced for the reincarnation of the Grand Lamas, including the one of drawing a lot from the golden urn to determine the soul boy.

 


 

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Goden sheet of authorization issued by Qing Emperor Daoguang to the 11th Dalai Lama in 1839.

 


 

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Picture shows Wu Zhongxin, special envoy of the Central Government, was sent to visit the soul boy of the 13th Dalai Lama before he was later enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama.

In 1911, a revolution took place in China, overthrowing the rule of the Qing Dynasty. When the Republic of China (1912-1949) was founded in 1912, it promulgated its first constitution--the Provisional Constitution, which clearly stipulated that Tibet was one of its 22 provinces. The Constitution and other laws promulgated thereafter all stipulated that Tibet was part of the Republic of China.

In July 1912, the Central Government set up the Bureau of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs (renamed Mongolian and Tibetan Council in May 1914) to take charge of Tibetan local affairs. Its officials appointed by the Central Government worked directly under the premier in a way the Qing High Commissioners did during the Qing Dynasty. In 1929, the Mongolian and Tibetan Council became the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs which, in April 1940, set up its Tibet Office in Lhasa. The 14th Dalai Lama himself was confirmed and enthroned all with the approval of the Central Government of the Republic of China. 

Great number of archives left behind from the period of the Republic of China show the 14th Dalai Lama, the local government of Tibet and the 10th Panchen Erdeni all had representatives in the National Congress, the supreme power organ, national government institutions; many of them were elected or appointed officials of the national authorities.

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